Jun 022018
 

It’s funny how a jar filled with sequins can evoke memories. When I completed several greeting card projects last year that included sequin-filled shaker windows, I was reminded of the time not long after we married, when my husband was stationed at Coronado’s naval base in southern California and I worked part-time at a local store called Cora Mart, located on Orange Avenue.

Cora Mart, which closed its doors in 1996 after more than 30 years of business, was an old-fashioned general store where you could find anything you needed except groceries. There were probably fewer than half a dozen aisles in the store, but their shelves and unpainted pegboards were well-stocked. Cora Mart was like a miniature department store without the frills. There were no display windows, no air conditioning, and no carpeted floors. The linoleum tile floors were cracked and faded, and the register counter at the front of the store was crowded with candy, gum and baseball cards. Needless to say, this was not the age of bar codes, so if a product wasn’t marked with a price, you’d ask a fellow clerk who might or might not know where to look it up—or you’d simply make up a reasonable price on the spot.

At the back of the store you’d find fertilizer, weed killer and garden tools, hardware, hammers and other implements. Another aisle sported storybooks, games, puzzles, toys, baby clothes and diapers. There was a household section stocked with towels and wash cloths, pots and pans, dishes, kitchen gadgets, stain removers and a smorgasbord of household cleaners. Another area was geared toward home dec—lamps, clocks, picture frames and doilies. And then there was the drugstore section with its first aid supplies, aspirin, wart remover and Pepto Bismol lookalikes. My favorite aisle, of course, included fabrics, buttons, rick rack and lace trims, sewing notions and craft supplies.

Among those craft supplies was the most beautiful collection of sequins I have ever seen. Sure, you’d find round or faceted sequins and star-shaped ones, but I recall shiny slivers of plastic shaped like tiny crescent moons, leaves, wreaths, pine trees, flowers, butterflies, birds and so much more. When I crafted my shaker card windows and filled them with sequins, I wished for more than circles or stars.

This afternoon I decided that it might be fun to make my own sequins. Equipped with a Die-namics Sequins die, some leftover Oil of Olay packaging in gold and silver plastic, as well as some Elizabeth Craft Designs Shimmer Sheets in such yummy shades as Australian Opal Gemstone, Pink Iris, Blue Iris and Imperial Garnet Gemstone, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

My first roll of the die through my Big Shot crackled and crinkled like a champ, but the results were less than spectacular. I think more than half of the sequins cracked and flew off into multiple directions, but what was left could still be used for shaker windows or card embellishments, as long as you weren’t planning on sewing them into place. The die couldn’t seem to punch holes through the sequins, at least not consistently. I suppose I could have punched holes one sequin at a time with a paper piercer or sewing needle, but the word that comes to mind is labor-intensive.

Then I tried the Shimmer Sheets, and these were less of a failure, probably because they were thinner than the plastic packaging and were actually designed to be cut with craft dies. I’m not sure the sequin die I used was designed to cut Mylar, however. In fact, the die packaging reads, “Die-namics will cut through: card stock, thin chipboard, ¼” cork, felt, acetate, sticky-back canvas, fabric, denim, sandpaper, 2 mm craft foam, wood veneer paper, photo magnet sheets, and MORE.” Acetate seems like Mylar, but you’ll notice that Mylar was not on the list. Many of my sequins were missing center holes, and I struggled to remove the Mylar film from the die shapes. Hmmm, I thought, I think I know why people purchase sequins instead of making their own.

On the other hand, if you watch a video titled DIY Paper Sequins on thefrugalcrafter channel, you’ll see that Lindsay Weirich gets good results with a hole punch, paper piercer, wooden dowel and shiny card stock. Who knew?

My handmade sequin-making experiment, however, made me wonder how industrial sequins are made. Certainly, I can’t beat the speed at which the sequins are punched in the short video shown below:

According to Smithsonian’s A History of Sequins from King Tut to the King of Pop, written by Emily Spivack, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 revealed gold discs sewn on his garments, suggesting wealth. The intent, presumably, was to prepare him for a financially-secure afterlife. These gold discs were likely an early version of sequins, a word whose origins go back to the Arabic word “sikka,” which means coin or minting die. Over the ages, writes Spivack, coins or precious metal discs continued to be sewn onto garments. Even Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by them, and in his day, women wore dresses called gamurra that had metal discs sewn onto them. One of da Vinci’s many sketches was a diagram for a sequin-producing machine, although the machine itself was never built. In the 1400s, gold coins sewn onto garments in Venice were called “zecchino.”

Yesterday’s metal discs are today’s plastic sequins, spangles, paillettes or diamantes—each looking somewhat different. Sequins typically have a center hole, while spangles have a hole at the top. Paillettes are large and flat, and diamantes are artificial, glittery or ornamental gems. What they share in common is that they can be sewn onto garments, shoes, bags and other accessories.

A Brief History of Sequins points out that the coins originally sewn on garments were heavy and eventually migrated to shiny, lighter-weight gelatin discs in the 1930s that had a tendency to dissolve when exposed to heat. The gelatin itself came from animal carcasses, according to 5 Sparkling Facts About Sequins, and was rolled into sheets from which the sequin shapes were cut out. Sometimes the pattern of the dissolved sequins on the garments of a dancing couple told a story, which explains the then-popular phrase, “missing sequins could tell tales.” A Brief History of Sequins explains that the non-gelatin version of sequins came about, also in the 1930s, when Herbert Lieberman, in partnership with Eastman Kodak, created sequins from acetate stock. In the 1950s, when Dupont invented Mylar, the fragile acetate sequins were coated with Mylar, which made them more durable. Today sequins are usually made from plastic.

I began this post, reminiscing about the variety of sequins I was able to purchase in the late 70s and early 80s. Today you’ll usually find round, star or heart-shaped sequins at your local Joann’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Walmart stores. Looking for something outside the norm? You will probably need to shop online, although fortunately you don’t have to look overseas. The alphabetical list below is not an endorsement of any particular site; it simply represents a starting point for more unique sequins. When searching for such sequins, it’s helpful to look under “shapes.”

If there is a shop where you have discovered interesting sequins, please share your information in the comments below.

© 2018 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Feb 182018
 

It’s no secret that I love words. Back when I was in third grade, we had to present an oral report about a book that described the job we wanted to have as an adult. I don’t recall the book I found for this purpose, but I told my classmates that I wanted to be an author. To date, I haven’t written a book, but I have published poetry, some newspaper articles and hundreds of blog posts. I even sell handmade books and journals in my Etsy shop, MisterPenQuin—simply to spread the joy of the written word—but also because I cannot fill enough of them in a lifetime just by myself!

I collect interesting words, books, magazines, and lists of articles, stories and posts I want to read in the same manner a philatelist collects stamps, or a numismatist collects coins. I’m a bibliophile who also collects writing journals the way a child collects rocks and lines them up on a shelf to admire.

Let’s talk about the joy of journal-writing. Perhaps you have admired the covers of journals in bookstores or online, but you cannot imagine how you would ever fill all those blank pages. Well, I have a solution for you: jog over to the Apple store and download a free app called Paper Blanks Journal Prompts, and you’ll be off to the races. If you use an Android device, go to Google Play to download the same app.

Paper Blanks is a company that specializes in producing the most beautiful writing journals I have ever seen. I own a few of them and treasure each one. The company uses acid-free, sustainable forest paper and 100% recycled binder boards for its products. It also supports organizations that advocate for social and environmental responsibility. “At the heart of everything we create,” they say, “is our belief that art matters.”

When you open the Paper Blanks Journal Prompts app, you’ll be greeted with a writing prompt that you can change simply by tapping New Prompt. If it’s a prompt out of which you think you’ll get lots of mileage, you can also save it as a favorite.

Under Settings, you can select one, multiple or all nine categories of prompts, depending on your interests.

When you click on More at the bottom of the screen, choose Journal Resources to get to Endpaper, the Paper Blanks blog.

What caught my attention, when I did this, was a post titled 28 New Journaling Prompts for Letter Writing Month.

It turns out that February is International Correspondence Writing Month, also known as InCoWriMo, dedicated to handwritten letters. The idea is to write one letter a day to someone and to mail it off. We are already past the halfway mark of February, so I wish I would have known about InCoWriMo earlier, but as the folks at this site say, you’re welcome to join in at any point—although you might have a little makeup writing to do! Even if you don’t officially join the venture this year, you can definitely use one of your blank journals to write letters to your future self, to the adult version of your child, or simply use letter-writing prompts to explore journal writing.

As you read this post, you may wonder if I was paid to write a testimonial for Paper Blanks, and the answer is no. I simply love their journals, as well as the concept of journal-writing. I encourage you to handwrite in a journal, but if you prefer to use a keyboard, by all means do so. People journal for all kinds of reasons—to improve their writing, to analyze what they have read, to reflect on events, experiences or feelings, to keep track of ideas or dreams, to reduce stress, to record favorite quotations or Bible verses, to express gratitude, to stay organized . . . and the list goes on.

The Internet is filled with many journal-writing prompts you can explore. Below are a few to get you started:

If you like to journal, how do you use your journal? Feel free to comment below.

© 2018 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Nov 082017
 

One month before the December holidays, most folks I know are getting serious about finishing (or starting!) their handmade gifts, or wrapping up (pardon the pun) their gift purchases. It’s also that time of year when my local scrapbooking store, Memory Bound, holds its Holiday Open House. This past Thursday through Sunday, the Jingle All the Way Holiday Open House saw many visitors, including yours truly.

One of the reasons I like visiting Memory Bound, especially when special events like the Holiday Open House are held, is that they are wonderful creativity-starters. Even if you aren’t a paper crafter, aren’t you a little bit tempted by the projects shown in their Facebook photo album or the video shown below? (Click on the photo to see the video.)

Honestly, I didn’t have anything specific in mind when I visited the shop Sunday afternoon, but several tree projects caught my attention. This first project is a Joyful Tree that consists of pre-cut wood pieces that you’ll paint white, cover with decorative paper and winter-themed embellishments, then top off with a star or other tree topper made out of wood, fabric, felt, ribbon or anything else you desire. The tree, when finished, stands about 23 inches high. The easy-to-assemble project is packaged in a Kaisercraft Christmas Tree kit that costs $12.95 at Memory Bound.

The second tree project I spotted is based on an Accordion Tree pattern you can purchase exclusively from Memory Bound for only $1. You’ll need a wood base, dowel, scrapbook paper and glue for this project. The sample Accordion Trees at Memory Bound used Cozy paper by Authentique, and were topped off by a large snowflake, embellished with a raffia cord bow. The base consisted of a wood tree slice, but you can use any wooden base that provides stability. The pattern is easy to follow and the tree looks real cute on your kitchen or dining room table, the top of your piano, a shelf or an accent table.

As I exited Memory Bound, this wood-slat, painted Santa Grooved Tree caught my eye. The shop offers a daytime class on Friday, November 17th during office hours when I normally work, so I will not be able to take advantage of it. But if you’re interested, the class is taught by Laurie Speltz from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The class fee of $47 includes everything you need except for basic supplies such as a craft mat, baby wipes, a Basic 5 Brush Set, a Black Pigma Micron .01 Pen, and stencil brushes. If you live in or near Ankeny, call Memory Bound at 515-965-1102 to learn about registration details.

So, why did I actually visit Memory Bound this past Sunday? I had no preconceived ideas (which makes for some risky shopping), but I was looking for something with a winter/holiday theme. What I ended up with is this lovely selection of papers and some jute ribbon spools. Stay tuned to find out what I do with them.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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